Utah’s same-sex couples can keep getting married, for now

December 23, 2013

Jeff Key, of Salt Lake City, holds the flag above his head as advocates for gay marriage rally on Capitol Hill in Salt Lake City after in August 2010. (AP Photo/Steve Griffin – The Salt Lake Tribune)

Having missed their chance Friday, Kara Weiss and her partner, Brittany Espy, both 31, spent the weekend worrying that their window of opportunity might close.

A federal judge had ruled Utah’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional Friday, allowing same-sex couples to get marriage licenses, but the state was racing to put an end to the practice as it appeals the ruling. Weiss and Espy were rushing, too, to get married lest the state get its way. They were married before a judge could make his decision on Monday morning, but it wouldn’t have mattered: he denied the state’s request around noon.

Now that Shelby has ruled, Utah is expected to take its appeal back to the court—the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, but in the meantime same-sex couples will be able to continue getting married.

Weiss and Espy had initially missed their chance Friday, so they had hoped the Salt Lake County Clerk’s office might be open Saturday. But it wasn’t. She and Espy arrived at the clerk’s office at 5:30 a.m. Monday only to find out that people had been there overnight. “It’s been really crazy,” Weiss said.

When they finally received their license, a judge was hearing the state’s argument. Fortunately, which way he ruled wouldn’t matter — Cliff Rosky, a University of Utah professor of law and expert on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender legal issues, was able to wed them before the ruling came down. Weiss, who also celebrated her birthday Monday, said the two were also eager to be wed for another reason: she’s 7 1/2 months pregnant.

“We really wanted to make sure that our child would be as protected as possible once he was born,” she said.

The case is significant both because it has cleared the way for same-sex marriages in a state dominated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which does not condone homosexuality, and because it could bring the issue to the Supreme Court.

“This case could decide the issue of same-sex marriage across the United States of America,” said Rosky, who is also chairman of the board of Equality Utah, a statewide LGBT rights organization.

Shelby’s ruling represents the first time a federal court has ruled on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans since the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, Rosky said from the Salt Lake County Clerk’s office where he officiated the marriages of two same-sex couples, including that of Weiss and Espy.

Niraj Chokshi reports for GovBeat, The Post's state and local policy blog.
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